Connection, embracing diversity and staying curious with Jioji Ravulo

25 March 2022
How can we ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated? Ahead of Shared Voices: Performance, Knowledge and Connection, we hear from Professor Jioji Ravulo on the importance of diverse perspectives and why museum objects can initiate conversations around inclusivity.

Emma Holland: Your work focuses on the promotion of Indigenous and diverse voices and perspectives. Why is creating inclusive, engaged and collaborative spaces so important to you?

Jioji Ravulo: Creating inclusive, engaged and collaborative spaces is so important because it’s about celebrating and embracing diversity and its differences. It’s about ensuring that such diverse perspectives are part of modern contemporary everyday conversations. Traditionally we look at Indigenous perspectives and may see them as not being relevant to today’s context but I completely disagree. I know from my own lived experience as someone that comes from a Pacific Indigenous heritage that I’m able to utilise my Indigenous perspectives across my role here at The University of Sydney. For example, the talanoa approach. I use the talanoa approach to support the meetings that I oversee in my role. It’s where we create a shared space through a talanoa. A talanoa is about being able to come together to have a collaborative, collegial and collective conversation. I utilised this approach in all my meetings that I chair and oversee and it’s a great way of being able to promote a relational approach to your engagement with people. So, for me I can see the ability to utilise such diverse perspectives in modern practices – where Pacific Indigenous or First Nations communities utilise within, but also across and throughout, their interactions with other communities.

In the 2022 Iain McCalman Lecture, Dr Jude Philp explored the evolving role of museums as places that stimulate change. What are your thoughts on the role of museums in consideration of Pacific culture?

Museums have an important role in being able to collect and curate a series of objects and artefacts that provide people with an opportunity to experience diverse perspectives and diverse ways of interacting with the world. To look at and explore tangible objects can provide possible insights into the way in which diverse communities lived and continue to live. But it’s important that we’re not just viewing these objects and creating the notion of the other. That this is how other people view the world, how other people live, without it meaningfully influencing the person who is looking at a particular collection may perceive and learn from this interaction. That is, sometimes we will look at museum collections and go “wow – that’s how those people lived their lives”. It’s important though, that when we explore the lives of others through these objects and items that we challenge ourselves. We should also ask, “What is the meaning of these items for the people it has come from and how has this shaped and utilised across their realities today?” We need to encourage each other to be curious about how these items that are showcased in museums can really be a gateway to further conversations around differences. This can provide scope for those that may not come from that cultural background to understand such realities, but also step into those realities as part of their own engagement across diversity.

The upcoming event, Shared Voices: Performance, Knowledge and Connection, co-hosted by Chau Chak Wing Museum and SEI, will involve performances on the diverse ways that Pacific peoples record, preserve and celebrate their histories and knowledge. Can you tell us more about the event?

The event will showcase our rich and diverse Pacific narratives and stories, perspectives, and practices. It highlights how our own specific ways of knowing and doing, being and becoming play out across our realities. It also helps to further reiterate a shared understanding of what it means to meaningfully incorporate Indigenous perspectives in modern contexts and it provides scope so everyone in the community, not just Pacific people, can share and celebrate these particular perspectives and practices. We really look forward to the opportunity to share these narratives, stories, and our own insights into how we interact with our own culture.

Finally, how can meaningful inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and practices in research and education shape our environmental futures?

I believe it’s about being able to see that Indigenous cultures have valued and continue to value connection to space and place; to land, and to the waterways. For us this is implicit to our connection to ourselves and to others. Our ability to nurture and look after the environments in which we come from plays out throughout our interactions, the ability to understand our heritage and even our identity. Being able to connect with the way in which Indigenous people understand their identities, including their connection to land, can assist in promoting a shared approach across the wider community – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – to shape environmental futures that proactively provide scope for sustainability to genuinely occur. 

To hear more from Jioji, register for the event, Shared Voices: Performance, Knowledge and Connection.

Jioji Ravulo is Professor and Chair of Social Work and Policy Studies in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney. His research, writing and areas of interest include mental health and well being, alcohol and other drugs, youth development, marginality and decoloniality. He is passionate about creating and implementing social work educational and research approaches that are engaging and engaged. 

As part of the Shared Voices: Performance, Knowledge and Connection event, Jioji will guide and engage a panel discussion following the presentations, bringing in insights from his iTaukei (Indigenous) Fijian heritage and his work promoting collaborative spaces and the meaningful inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and practices in research and educational settings.

Image header: [Fijian dance with clubs], 1893-95, Fiji, photo: HMS Royalist, copy print, donated B Bowden, album held by Fiji National Museum 1987, Macleay Collection, Chau Chak Wing Museum, HP87.14.7.